We’ve all got that mate. The one with the twin-rig boat who ties all his own wind-ons and rigs his own lures; the one who always seems to know where the fish are going to pop up, then catches and fillets them better than anyone else on the boat. Sean Foley ticks all these boxes, but what makes it more remarkable is that he’s blind.
THE CAPTAIN: Sean, you’re a bit of a gun fisho, but also legally blind. Are you sure you’re not pulling our leg and you’ve actually still got a bit of vision there?
SEAN FOLEY: Nah mate, I’m full-on blind. If there was a post in front of me that I didn’t know about, I’d run straight into it.
How did it happen?
I was diagnosed with glaucoma at about two years old. It’s the leading cause of irreversible blindness. When I was 16, I detached my right retina in a skiing accident then, four years ago, a stand from a crossmember ruptured my left orbit [eye socket] and it was all over.
Jeez, that’s a rough hand. When you meet your maker, what will you ask him/her in relation to your eyesight?
Well, I’m 41 now, and don’t have cancer. I’ve got a job fixing power-steering boxes and clutches, and I get to fish on my days off. I think about sick little kids who can’t get outside to do what I’m doing and I’m comfortable with it. What pisses me off is people who waste their life on drugs and then play the victim.
OK, onto the fishing. Tell us about your rig.
It’s a 2008 Mako Craft 645 centre-cab with twin 115HP 4-stroke Yammies. They’ve got 5700 hours and haven’t missed a beat. I fitted four-blade props and that improved performance – a lot smoother planing, better low-speed manoeuvrability and a better grip coming down a wave. I’ve also fitted an extra grab-rail down the length of the boat.
You’ve been on a few boats – what’s the most comfortable at sea?
My mate, Mark Sholty, owns a 6m Edencraft Offshore, that’s awesome in the rough stuff. Black Watch makes a beautiful gamefishing boat to work out of, and I’ve been in a really comfortable alloy cat from New Zealand.
What kind of fishing do you enjoy most?
I’m born and bred in Geelong, Victoria so anything that swims off Bass Strait, really … but particularly southern bluefin, mako sharks and marlin up the coast. I chase barra with Dad up north. He tells me where to cast by using a number on a clock face to give me a bearing, then gives me a distance to the timber. I usually out-fish the old bugger, as well!
Tell me about that big bluefin on the wall.
The fish were feeding along the south coast, making their way back to Indonesian waters. We predicted they’d pop up at Port McDonnell and, sure enough, at 3pm on the tide change on a Sunday, when all the Melbourne-based fishermen had given up and gone home, we hooked that 154.9kg model. She gobbled a Black Magic Super Stripey lure and took two hours to land.
Any tips for bluefin punters out there?
Keep your rigs in top condition because there was a silly amount of bust-offs last year – and buy the best reels you can afford. Everyone has a sorry tale of busting reels on that dream fish. When a big fish is near the boat, it’s useful to try to steer it rather than muscle it on the leader. And don’t panic.
How do you cope offshore?
In many different ways. I pay close attention to birds. On one occasion I could hear a patch of birds and asked Mark if there were any other boats around. There wasn’t so we headed straight there and hooked a 94kg bluefin. I’m also a keen researcher, using voice-recognition software on my phone, attending talks, following forums and listening to videos from the US on new techniques. I was also born with a good memory – which has helped me on the punt – but it’s also helped me retain vital information. I’m normally the first to smell a kill slick, too.
So you’re a humanoid fish-finder! Maybe I’ll trade my HALO radar in for you as deckie. What else do you do on the boat?
I set the spread and clip in the outriggers by feel. I count the line coming off in seconds, or sometimes count the swell waves, depending on the conditions. I also try to be the most optimistic bloke on the boat.
Any scary moments?
I nearly got bitten by a mako pup. I tailed it into the boat, removed the hook and picked it up to release. As I did, the drawstring on my trackies got stuck in its teeth. The boys thought that was pretty funny. Thankfully, there was no damage done to the ol’ fella!
What about the ladies? With your positive attitude and keen sense of feel you could be in high demand among The Captain’s female readership.
Ha! No time, mate. All I do is work and fish!
We hear you, Sean. The Captain salutes you!